Fansplaining: Trash Ships and Fandom IRL

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Podcast Episode
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Episode Title: Fansplaining: Trash Ships and Fandom IRL
Length: 1:05:07
Featured: DestinationToast
Date: May 4, 2016
External Links: Episode at, Archived version; Promotional post on Tumblr, Archived version; transcript (dead link, not archived); notes (dead link, not archived)

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Fansplaining: Trash Ships and Fandom IRL is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


"In Episode 21, “Trash Ships and Fandom IRL,” Flourish and Elizabeth split the episode between two different topics. First they talk to Fansplaining regular DestinationToast about her recent Star Wars shipping statistical analysis (during which Flourish declares herself Captain Of The Garbage Scow). Then they talk to Alexa Donne of Leviosa about the task of running a fan convention, including the importance of accountants, market realities, and how much the Harry Potter community loves to drink."

Topics Discussed


With DestinationToast

FK: OK, so the stats in question were about the relative popularity of different ships in Star Wars over time, right? DT: Yes. I mostly, I started out look at, OK, is Star Wars actually really popular? It is. I only compared it to other fandoms on AO3, but Tumblr’s Fandometrics also says that it’s been incredibly popular on Tumblr. So I feel pretty safe in saying: super popular, but then most of the other questions that people had were about which ships were popular, because everyone’s seeing different ships on their dash depending on who they follow. So some people are like “oh, it’s all Reylo!” Rey and Kylo Ren. And some people are, “it’s all Stormpilot!” Finn and Poe. And some people said “it’s just all Kylux at this point!” Kylo Ren and Hux. And this was where I thought it was funny that we all had such different experiences and went off to try and figure out what was going on with the ships.

DT: Data! Yay! We saw a really interesting pattern that I haven’t seen before when looking at shipping development in other fandoms, where in AO3 in particular Stormpilot had this huge surge of popularity right at the beginning and then dropped off pretty substantially and abruptly, like a month later. I caveat this by saying it’s still one of the most popular ships right now, because Star Wars is so huge and it didn’t go away as a ship, but it’s way less popular than it was right at first.

ELM: It was really—I was just thinking today because someone tagged me in other data charts, and I was like “I don’t know how to read this,” but I’m seeing them and, oh, I know how to read that. It was plummeting. It just dropped.


DT: When it was Godzilla, it plummeted down from producing over 250 works per week to being maybe a third of that or something more recently. So it’s just this really amazing meteoric rise and then drop off that is unusual from what I have seen with ships, that combo.

So Kylo Ren and Hux, that combo, has risen on AO3 much more slowly, but has surpassed—I mean, “slowly,” this is all pretty recent, right? But still—rose a lot more slowly at first but it surpassed Stormpilot to be right now the most active ship on AO3.

FK: Whaaaaat.

DT: I know! The relative popularity of Reylo actually varies more depending on the platform.

ELM: Because AO3 is more likely to be slash-heavy?

DT: AO3 is slash-heavy, yeah. So Kylux is most popular there, and Reylo also kind of had an earlier rise but has leveled out around the same as—Pin Foe? No. Where Finn/Poe is now at. But on Tumblr, Reylo is maybe the most popular, or maybe tied with Kylux. And on Tumblr I was only looking at the most popular tag for each one. I wish Tumblr had tag wranglers but they don’t; I tried to do a sanity check that this didn’t disproportionately hurt Stormpilot because of the different tags for it, and it doesn’t seem like it changes the results a ton. But, it is hard to say, “oh, Reylo’s definitely the most active right now,” or anything like that.

FK: [...] Kylux has risen; Reylo, more popular in places that are not AO3 in comparison to the AO3; still, very popular. Peaked earlier on AO3 than elsewhere but has nevertheless become very popular. So at this point, Finn/Poe and Kylux and Reylo, all about the same popularity? In a macro sense?

DT: At this particular point, about the same popularity, I would say that on AO3 Kylux is way more popular than the other two and on Tumblr Stormpilot is way less popular than the other two relatively speaking. A couple other quick takeaways that jumped out at me, on there’s lots of het ships that are way more popular than slash ships, like Anakin and Padmé has got a ton of works, next most popular after Reylo. So, it’s different about

Also, Jedi Stormpilot! My OT3 in this fandom to the extent that I am a member—


DT: Finn, Poe and Rey together are actually doing amazingly well for a poly ship, and just popular, quite popular overall. They’re equalling Han and Leia, which is a canon het ship, in their production, pretty much.

FK: A beloved canon het ship!

With Alexa

FK: So as the person who’s officially not going to this con, maybe, but who wants to know about it, sell me on it. Tell us a little bit about the con that you’re running, is what I’m trying to say.

AD: Yes! So Leviosa is a Harry Potter and YA literature conference, I would say. It’s essentially four days of nonstop Harry Potter and book nerding. I have over 100 hours of formal programming, which is panels and lectures and workshops, and then in the evenings we’ll do fun, really dorky stuff like karaoke and trivia and a fashion show and a ball, which is Harry Potter nerd prom

FK: So how is it that a con like this comes to be? I guess this is partially “How did you end up doing this,” but also more generally I think that cons seem to sort of just exist and then people go to them, but they have to start somehow.

AD: “It’s magic!” So I have a long and storied history with Harry Potter conventions. I started going to them and then I became friends with the people who ran them, and I ended up working for them. Just kinda got pulled in as a volunteer. So that’s how I saw on the back end how they worked, and they’re less scary when you’ve been on the…no, they’re both less scary and incredibly terrifying once you’ve been on the other side of it. Because you see how much work goes into it. They seem effortless and they should when you’re there as an attendee.

And so having worked on two Potter cons behind the scenes and then I joined the Young Adult literature track staff at Dragon Con, so now I’ve done four Dragon Cons and at the time that we decided to this I had done two Dragon Cons, so I had that under my belt as well. It’s just…you look for a hole in the market. You have a thing that you love, and you want to fangirl about it or hang out with your friends and talk about nerdy things like symbolism in Harry Potter. Mother figures, or what have you. You can’t find people to have those conversations with or you’d rather see a panel of experts talk about the thing you know nothing about.

But speaking more generally about cons, since you asked, I hyper-focused on us but I can speak more generally. It’s just you love a thing, you’re pretty sure other people love a thing, you don’t see a convention doing exactly what you want to do, and that could be content, it could be geography. For us it was there’s almost never West Coast Harry Potter fan cons. They’re always East Coast based. And so the West Coast people don’t necessarily get to go to those, or they go to SDCC instead. But it doesn’t really have Potter content. So you see a hole in the market, and then the key thing is assembling a superhero team of people, because you cannot run a con alone. It takes a multitude of skill sets that almost never exist in one person.

And the most important thing, because we can talk about the cons that maybe don’t do well, is you have to run it like a business and you have to treat it like a business. Loving a thing is not enough. You need an accountant. You need to be able to have business conversations with venues and guests and be professional. There are a lot of hats.